|Posted by Stephen Crilly on November 7, 2013 at 3:10 PM||comments (11)|
Will future generations look back to these years and thank us, or will they feel we did not do enough? For some of you, this question may spark thoughts of handling climate change. Going deeper, their opinion will probably rest on the overall quality of life. Future generations have the primary responsibility for making the most of their lives, but it would be wrong to downplay our role in shaping the world they will face.
“Future generations” sounds like an abstract concept, but when we hear the term, we should think of real, flesh-and-blood individuals as though they exist in the present. Will these souls be thriving, or will struggle and suffering be the norm?
As I look over the broad range of factors that will impact the future, there is one that I believe requires much more attention in the next few years – character education. I attended the 2013 National Forum on Character Education in Washington, D.C., October 24 – 27, 2013. The conference is organized by the Character Education Partnership (CEP) (www.character.org), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The CEP conference brings together many experts in the field of character education. The first day included an International Summit, during which we heard presentations and interacted with those leading the way with character education programs in their countries. David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, gave an inspiring opening keynote speech the next day.
I was very impressed by the organizations offering character education programs to the school systems. It was difficult to learn about all of them in depth during just two days, but I am satisfied that the programs we need are available.
From the information I gleaned at the conference, I see two problems going forward. First, not enough schools are implementing effective character education programs, focusing only on academic performance. It was obvious to those who attended the conference that good character precedes good academic results. As studies that were noted confirm, it is much easier to improve academic scores if you focus on character education also.
Second, character education programs in the schools can do just so much. Ultimately, the norms of society will have the primary impact. Parents and the community must set good examples. Character education programs need to encourage these younger generations to accept the responsibility for raising the standards of conduct in society. It is not overly dramatic to say that the survival of the planet depends on it.
I believe that what is needed is a grassroots effort by concerned parents to have character education programs implemented in all schools. It requires parents helping school officials to research and implement effective programs. If you are considering volunteering your time, I encourage you to help in this area. Good character education programs create a welcoming atmosphere for the students and make learning fun.
Improving community and societal norms is more difficult. When you read the daily news, you see some good, but there is a lot of bad and ugly. Children generally gravitate toward the norm they see around them, including what they observe on television and in movies.
Take, for example, youth alcohol consumption. Alcohol advertisements on TV glorify its use. Yet, we all know its dark side. One prominent speaker at the conference noted alarming statistics of alcohol use by students. Binge drinking: 32% of 12th graders and 14% of 9th graders had five or more drinks on at least one day during the prior 30 days; 19% of high school males and 7% of middle schoolers were drunk at school at least once in the past year. Other shocking numbers were provided for drug use, dropout rates, rape, pregnancy, bullying and prejudice. (See also, The Ethics of American Youth: 2012.)
If you are concerned about the fate of the globe, it may help to keep an eye on studies of this type. It has been recognized that adequate education is under the rubric of national security. (See e.g., PBS NewsHour.) An argument could be made that national character has as much, if not more, to do with national security than the mere acquisition of knowledge. It is difficult to influence character education in the home and community, but we can make a difference in the schools.
We should never underestimate the cues children are taking from societal tolerance for low-virtue conduct. The government shutdown was bad, but the stories of Congressmen smelling of alcohol as they walked off the floor were ugly. (“Congressmen Booze As Government Shutdown Looms” and “Congressmen Still Boozing As Government Shuts Down”.) I felt the matter important enough to write the House Committee on Ethics and the Office of Congressional Ethics. In the private sector, being under the influence on the job is a fireable offense.
Overall, what example are Congressmen setting for the younger generations? Are they inspiring the best, the brightest and the most ethical to serve, or only those with a tendency to compromise virtue balance in a system prone to the puppetry of money? Raising the ethical norms in business is equally important.
Future generations will face serious challenges. Emphasizing character education programs in the school systems and improving the trend of ethical conduct in government are two of the most important ways we can help those who do not have a voice in the policies and practices that will impact them one day. I encourage you to support CEP and character education programs in any way you can. Future generations will thank you for it.
I hope you will share your observations and opinions on this topic.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on August 3, 2013 at 9:55 AM||comments (1)|
During the past few weeks, I have been attempting to prioritize the problems facing the planet. One reason is to determine how I might best spend my time available for volunteer work. When we say “volunteer work,” the image of involvement in the local community may come to mind for many. However, there is a wide variety of ways to volunteer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that about 64.5 million Americans engaged in volunteer work in 2011 – 2012, or about 26.5 percent of those over 16 years old. This is a promising number. It does not appear to include many people participating in sporadic, online activism to draw attention to causes.
One can only speculate as to the factors people take into account in selecting a cause on which to devote attention. For some, the decision may be a rational process of weighing the primary threats to our existence or way of life on the planet, such as climate change or the depletion of non-renewable resources. For others, it may be an emotional decision based on seeing a need in their immediate locale. In many instances, it may be happenstance – a friend’s involvement, or seeing a news story that stimulates a desire to help.
There are many worthwhile causes. Some of the criteria I consider in the selection process include: Where is the suffering, or the potential for it, the greatest? How much attention is already being focused on the issue? Are there a sufficient number of organizations and volunteers helping? Do I have the ability to assist?
There are hidden cases of suffering, such as from torture or human trafficking, on which some groups are working. Hunger and poverty is another form of suffering, which might be out of sight and out of mind for most, but it is not hard to find.
About one in six people in the United States face hunger. There is a useful interactive map showing the food insecurity rates by state and county at Feeding America. If you don’t recognize the problem as real, please watch the documentary, A Place at the Table, released in March 2013.
One group that is at the forefront of the fight against hunger and poverty globally is RESULTS. I learned of the organization through Marianne Williamson, who is on their Board. The mission of RESULTS is to create the public and political will to end poverty by empowering individuals to exercise their personal and political power for change.
I had the good fortune of attending the 2013 RESULTS International Conference in D.C. There were about 500 people in attendance. After three days of learning the specifics of many issues, we met with our Senators, Congressmen, their aides and the World Bank to advance the policies necessary to end poverty.
The World Bank is calling upon the international community to join in its goal of decreasing the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day from 1.2 billion people to just three percent of the population by 2030.
I urge you to review the information on the RESULTS website and become involved in this push to end poverty. Your direct involvement is needed. The staff and volunteers at RESULTS will take you step by step through what is needed to become an effective advocate for ending poverty.
In considering the potential for suffering, it is necessary to also consider the well being of generations hundreds of years in the future. They have no voice in the current decisions and conduct that will affect them. While I will continue to be active in RESULTS, I plan to attend the Character Education Partnership Conference in October 2013. As I have stated repeatedly, I believe one of the keys to solving global problems, while there is still time, is strong character education programs for the young. The fate of distant generations is in the hands of these next few generations.
I hope you will find a cause that pulls at your heart strings.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on June 14, 2013 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
God can be defined in many ways. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say there is a God, or a God-like force, with a plan for mankind, or at least a hope for how the future of the planet might unfold. Even if you are an atheist, the primary message offered here should not be adverse to your way of thinking. Reason suggests that if such a plan of a higher intelligence exists, it might involve mankind learning and practicing virtues.
Some people associate virtues with religion, but that is not entirely correct. Virtues include traits for achieving material success, such as determination, orderliness, self-discipline, foresight, learning and enthusiasm. Interpersonal virtues, often taught in a faith-based context, such as friendliness, kindness, courtesy, respect, tact and trust, can also have a significant influence on one’s chances for financial success.
I occasionally ask people in a tactful way how many virtues they think there are. I have been surprised that many are completely dumbfounded by the question. Yet, if you give it some thought, the level of suffering or joy in the world is directly related to how well virtues are understood and practiced. It starts at the micro level of how individuals practice virtues in their daily lives, and continues to the macro level of how governments and the global economy function.
Just as individuals learn virtues by experience, the planet as a whole is subject to virtue lessons. We learn both individually and collectively that fully practicing virtues brings success and happiness, and neglecting them brings sorrow. If that does not seem true for you, the key phrase is “fully practicing.” Also, it may be a question of timing before the final result, positive or negative, unfolds.
One planetary lesson currently being learned relates to the virtue of moderation. Some people argue that God represents abundance, implying that there is no need to be concerned about the availability of resources. However, if moderation is to be learned, the lesson plan may include achieving an awareness that waste, excess and a lack of foresight have consequences. Yes, practicing joyfulness is a virtue, but it need not be dependent on unbridled materialism.
Lessons of moderation are often tied into lessons of humility, fairness and compassion. Acquiring wealth for status may indicate imbalanced humility and a failure to discern the balance required for fairness to future generations. Unenlightened wealth can sometimes show a lack of compassion toward those who do not have the natural abilities, upbringing or simply the good fortune to find a path to high earnings. One goal of the virtue-balanced individual is to provide service with excellence. If wealth results, he or she recognizes the responsibilities that it brings.
It is usually difficult for adults to change their habits. It may take some people many years of therapy to rebalance a single virtue, such as replacing a tendency toward anger with peacefulness. Imagine how much harder it is to raise the norm of good conduct of the planet as a whole. How do you put the world on a path that both the religious and non-religious might agree is an ideal one, and that a higher intelligence, if it exists, would want for mankind?
Each person who awakens to virtue consciousness pushes the norm of good conduct and the chances for planetary sustainability higher. When there are signs of a planet in peril, one solution that warrants greater consideration is effective character education programs in school systems internationally. At the current virtue level of the planet, relying on parents alone to set the norm for the next few, critical generations may not be enough to create the upward trend in responsible conduct required to save the planet.
A call to action is necessary to stimulate optimism for the development of effective character education programs in schools worldwide. Perhaps in the process of debating what traits of good character should be included in such programs, more parents will awaken to an understanding of the virtues that will determine the fate of the planet.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on May 8, 2013 at 3:20 PM||comments (4)|
Every crisis or tragedy has its lessons. What are the lessons of the Boston bombings?
When an individual experiences a crisis or tragedy, there is often a period of self-reflection that follows. This can also occur on a national level. Sandy Hook brought attention to gun control issues. After the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh, we as a nation were asked to “look in the mirror” for the why. In that case, the desire to buy goods for the lowest possible price was identified as part of the problem.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted the bombs because he “hated America.” In his deluded thinking he failed to recognize that the character of the nation is not homogeneous. National character falls into a bell curve, with the extremes representing the best and the worst in us. He was lashing out at what he perceived to be the norm, or perhaps the norm of complacency of Americans toward certain public policies.
Why would people hate America? Are they attacking our values or our level of virtue? There is a difference. Virtues are the foundation of good character. Some values are virtues, but values may not always reflect virtues. For example, being of service is a virtue. Being of service to acquire the wealth to consume more resources than the planet can sustain reflects values.
Also, how is the wealth of the nation earned and spent? Enlightened wealth is wealth ethically earned and wisely used. Wealth, however earned, can cause an imbalance in humility. Arrogance arising from wealth, particularly ill-gotten wealth, is never an attractive character trait.
Good character is based on knowing the delicate balance among many virtues. For example, there is a fine line between national pride and appropriate humility. Expressing national pride in a way that makes others feel “less than” indicates lack of sensitivity to what is ultimately the unity of humanity.
Those who like Americans see our positive qualities and the good we do in the world. They accept the rest as lesson learning. We have come a long way from the “ugly American” image of the past, but there is still more to be done before the nation will command the respect of the world based on a perception of good national character in all that we do.
The character of the nation is demonstrated in more ways than can be counted. Do alcohol ads on TV glorifying its use to young people in the face of its known, often destructive effects, show something of national character? Many Americans participate in volunteer activities, but is the perception of the norm a nation obsessed with sports and entertainment above all else? Many of us attend religious services, but is that goodness seen in how we act on the other days of the week?
Politics and the conduct of business provide evidence of the national character. Whether the national ideology promotes the most ethical conduct in government and business will influence how we are perceived by the rest of the world. If foreign policy is tied to business and not peace-building, it is unlikely that you can stop people from hating Americans.
The solution to preventing future tragedies does not lie primarily in more security, more surveillance and more restrictions on freedom. It lies mainly in national self-reflection and improving where we can – individually and collectively.
It is often difficult to change the behavior of adults. No one likes to be told their character needs improving, unless they are genuinely interested in achieving excellence or are acting out of self-preservation. Without inspirational leadership, little can be done in the short term. It’s about moving the nation to a balance point that reasonably respects the views and sensitivities of others who share this interconnected planet.
There is one solution that can help ensure an improved national image in the medium to long term, and that is effective character education programs in the school systems. You can pound math and science into the minds of students, but that alone will not save the planet, either from the misuse of resources or from the tragedies arising from hatred. Good character learned in combination with academics will solve the problems facing future generations.
If Mr. Tsarnaev had perceived overall national character as high, perhaps he would not have taken such drastic steps. It is likely that a perception of lack of virtue will continue to arouse hatred. It is harder, though, to gather the internal strength, or gain recruits, to attack the virtuous.
How difficult is it to raise a child in high virtue in the United States? How difficult is it to raise an entire generation internationally with high ideals of conduct? We should devote as much attention to effective character education as we do any national or international issue. During that process, perhaps the behavior of some adults will change, particularly those with influence in the world or those who would have sought to do harm.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on December 20, 2012 at 11:45 PM||comments (0)|
The Sandy Hook tragedy is an indication of the need for change. Gun control is obviously one issue. Another that is rarely discussed is the need for effective character education programs in schools. Some character education programs have been tested and found to be ineffective. We are certainly not seeing the results in society that should be expected of a well-designed and widely distributed program.
I am putting together a team to develop what I envision to be a very simple manual and companion video: 44 Traits of Good Character: A Guide for Parents and Teachers. The plan is that it will be a non-profit, making the guide available electronically on a donation basis. The hard copy version would be made available at cost.
If you believe you can assist with this project, please contact me. We will need those with skills in child development, writing, video production, distribution, organizing and fundraising. If you know anyone with expertise who might want to help, please refer them to this website.
The 44 Virtues book identifies character education as the key to a higher-virtue world. If an effective character education program had been in existence earlier, the Sandy Hook tragedy might have been averted. Good character education programs are a step toward solving many significant problems facing our planet. Now is the time to act. Please become active in this cause and hold the vision that it can be done.
Wishing you the best for the Holiday Season.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on May 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM||comments (4)|
If you look over the list of 44 Virtues, you will find that it takes almost all the Virtues, to one degree or another, to achieve enlightened wealth. The same is true for achieving Wisdom and Love. For maintaining good Health, it helps to have financial security (enlightened wealth) and good judgment (Wisdom). A reasonable conclusion is that practicing all 44 Virtues is necessary to achieve the life goals of Health, enlightened wealth, Wisdom and true happiness (Love). (Virtues capitalized.)
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on May 1, 2011 at 11:58 AM||comments (0)|
"Enlightened wealth" is wealth ethically earned and wisely used.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on April 16, 2011 at 2:18 PM||comments (0)|
If you are faced with a difficult decision, try reviewing the list of the 44 Virtues. One or more of the Virtues will be “in play.” The best decision is found by weighing the Virtues that impact the situation. Honesty in balancing in and among the Virtues is key.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on March 31, 2011 at 11:09 AM||comments (5)|
The virtue of Joy (or Joyfulness) encompasses those things that we do for entertainment and pleasure. For some, it might be a devotion to sports. For others, it could be socializing, engaging in some activity of interest, or even shopping. The virtue of Joy also includes bringing Joy to others.
The virtues of Compassion and Idealism include those things that we do to assist others in need. Living a virtue-balanced life requires a balance among these virtues. A virtue-balanced life is where true happiness is found and where one can find the doorway to enlightenment.
|Posted by Stephen Crilly on March 17, 2011 at 2:39 PM||comments (2)|
The article from The Huffington Post (March 17, 2011) linked below leads to Ethisphere’s list of the 110 World’s Most Ethical Companies. Having an awareness of the companies on the list is part of encouraging higher standards of corporate ethics. The subject of business ethics has its foundation in principles of balanced-virtue. With continuing grass roots pressure, business ethics can evolve toward even higher standards. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/17/microsoft-most-ethical-company_n_837003.html
Direct link to Ethisphere list: http://ethisphere.com/2011-worlds-most-ethical-companies/